Why getting personal means being political this Plastic Free July

It’s really simple. I love this beautiful land we call Aotearoa. We’ve got wild coastlines, beautiful beaches and tight-knit communities. We’ve also got a massive plastic crisis.

We all know the story too well. The public profile for plastic has shot through the roof this year. Plastic pollution was the theme for World Environment Day, it’s got its own platform on National Geographic, David Attenborough can’t stop talking about it and everyone seems keen to clean up the planet. It’s exciting! The movement to end plastic has been building and becoming stronger. Now it needs to become resolute.

Because, at the same time as the world wakes up, the industry prescribing us plastic is becoming more wiley, resourceful and stealthy. The industry has been increasing its plastic production, which is set to double over the next ten years. We bring our reusable shopping bags and keep-cups, the industry brings its styrofoam and virgin-plastic bottles, and somehow, despite our best efforts and personal choices to go plastic free, our landfills continue to fill up and our seas choke with waste.

I’ve had enough!

So this Plastic Free July I’m going to be calling out the industry responsible for this waste and demand they become part of the solution. This month I’m going to demand our government steps up to take real action on waste.

This month I’m going act for a plastic-free world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be doing all of the wonderful plastic-free things this July. I love the passion, inspiration and enthusiasm of the plastic-free movement. The cloth bag sewing, the soap making, the beeswax-wrappings, the water bottle filling, the beach clean-ups, the plastic-free initiatives and options spilling forth from businesses, cafes and the like across Aotearoa. We need this. I encourage you to bring your own containers to your local take-away, to support businesses providing ethical plastic alternatives, and to teach your kids about recycling and composting. Plastic Free July is all about getting personal.

And this July getting personal means being political.

Let’s think about what it would actually take to be plastic free. Or better yet, zero waste. It could take a long time, but it is reasonable that this kind of world could exist. Imagine it. Feel it. What does it look like to you? No beaches covered in rubbish, no strangled birds washed up on shore. Green grass and clean forests, neighbourhoods, communities. Ok now let’s take some steps backwards.

Right now there are nearly 2 billion new plastic bottles being produced each day worldwide. They’re going out there into shops, streets, landfills and seas. This is just bottles. Think plastic bags, styrofoam, tetra packs, aluminium cans. Ok, that’s a lot of waste. How are we going to get from here to where we want to be.

We know that, thus far, plastic production has only increased, virgin plastic bottles are being made at alarming rates and industry doesn’t have it covered. They haven’t reduced, made more products out of recyclable material or designed better packaging that can be refilled, properly recycled or composted at home. They talk about sustainability. And yet the oceans and landfills keep filling up. They need to be held accountable. They need to design better solutions. They need to get responsible for waste.

Here comes the government. It’s the representative voice and managing system of us – the people. Let’s never forget that and let’s never stop demanding our government meet our needs and not the industries. The government has laws and legal frameworks already in place right here in Aotearoa now to create systems that would change everything. We could see our litter rates drop by 65% and more overnight and we could see our recycling rate skip up to 85% and beyond with a container deposit scheme. We could see an enormous decrease in plastic bag use with a plastic bag ban or levy. We could see recycling and community centres supported with funds to get a circular economy ticking – where waste stops being waste and becomes a resource and where the industry works alongside communities to develop initiatives that will solve our waste crisis.

The government is only going to listen if you stand up and say something.

It’s too easy for industry and government to do nothing, and to keep coming up with false, voluntary solutions which won’t work. To be honest, the industry loves it when we get all “it’s my fault there’s all this plastic in the world, let’s be tidy kiwis”, because it means they get to slack off while we take the blame.

Be responsible, get personal with your waste journey and make the changes you need to make to feel good and connected to creating solutions. But don’t forget to hold industry and government responsible for stalling on the real solutions. If we want big change, (and we do) we have to get political too. Yeah, I know, it’s not fair. The industry and government should be doing this anyway. Just like women should have always had the vote, just like the BP Horizon spill shouldn’t have happened. We have to stand up and demand change if this is what we want. It simply won’t happen otherwise.

This July get personal and be political.

Here are a few things you can do:

Write to your MP here

Sign our petition here

Get your organisation to sign our open letter calling for a bottle deposit scheme here

Volunteer with us here